On Monday, May 28, Carroll County will mark its 145th annual observance of Memorial Day with an expanded parade and ceremonies at the Westminster Cemetery.
In 1967, our community noted the 100th anniversary of Westminster's Memorial Day observances. According to local historian Jay Graybeal, who wrote about the occasion for the Historical Society of Carroll County in 1997, "Participants came from sixteen states and one newspaper estimated that the crowd numbered 15,000 people."
Ironically and tragically, it was just one year after that centennial celebration that Air National Guard Lt. Col. Sherman E. Flanagan Jr., 38, a Westminster attorney — and a member of the 100th anniversary committee — was shot down and killed while flying a mission over the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam on July 21, 1968. He was flying an F-100 "Super Sabre" jet fighter at the time of his death.
According to an article in The Baltimore Sun's Carroll County edition, "Flanagan was believed to be the first Guardsman to die in Vietnam who was called to duty during that period."
A note on the Washington D.C. Vietnam Memorial "Virtual Wall" website notes Flanagan's passing, saying, "A Super Sabre and its pilot was lost during a mission to destroy an anti-aircraft gun position on the South Vietnamese-Laos border, in the hill country 25 miles southwest of Hue.
"Lt. Col. Flanagan was making his first strafing pass from 3,000 feet when his aircraft was hit by ground fire and dived into the ground near the target. The pilot may have been wounded by the anti-aircraft fire as he did not eject. Lt. Col. Flanagan was a member of the District of Columbia ANG who had volunteered for service with the 355th," notes the website.
Flanagan was born in Westminster on April 8, 1930. He attended Westminster High School before going to Charlotte Hall Military Academy, graduating in 1947, according to the Sun.
"A Westminster lawyer, he also was a 1960 graduate of the University of Maryland and Maryland Law School. He was the past secretary of the Maryland Bar Association and a member of the Westminster Rotary Club," the paper reported.
The Sun also reported that he joined the Air Force in 1951 and flew combat missions in the Korean War.
Flanagan "belonged to the 113th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard that was called to active duty Jan. 27, 1968 during the Pueblo crisis," said the Sun.
It was also reported that he was subsequently "assigned to train replacement pilots at Myrtle Beach, S.C., which require him to make brief trips to Vietnam, where he volunteered to stay and fly combat missions."
As we mark yet another milestone of Memorial Day in Westminster with the 145th observance, it's appropriate to recall the service and sacrifice of Flanagan — who just a year before his own death, helped make sure we didn't forget those who came before him.
Now, we do the same, and forever hold him in our hearts.
Flanagan's remains were never recovered. He is remembered on the black granite memorial that is the centerpiece of the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial Park.
He may also be found on Panel 51W Line 025, on the granite Vietnam Memorial, in Washington.
More information on Carroll County and the Vietnam War may be found in "Tours of Duty" by Gary D. Jestes and Jay A. Graybeal; on sale at the Historical Society of Carroll County.
After attending Memorial Day ceremonies at the Westminster Cemetery on May 28, Kevin Dayhoff may be found at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial Park on Willis Street. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.